Will the Kindness of Strangers Pull a Struggling Family Back from the Brink?

Pamela McGushin wants to help her best friend of 25 years, and Downers Grove resident, meet mounting medical costs due to rare disorders and home damage from severe storms.

Pamela McGushin was looking for a way to help her best friend, Shannon Willis.

The two have known each other for 25 years, and McGushin describes her friend as independent and strong.

“She likes to do things on her own,” said McGushin, of Orland Park. “She’s not about being the center for attention.”

But lately the Downers Grove family has needed some help. Shannon’s son Tommy was born in 2005 with a rare genetic condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, which can cause serious seizure, vision and hearing loss and a need for a feeding and tube. About a year ago, Shannon was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a disorder similar to multiple sclerosis that can lead to severe muscle fatigue.

McGushin started researching ways she could raise money for her friends without them having to be involved, and came upon GoFundMe, and online crowd sourcing service for individual fundraisers.

“It’s something I didn’t understand until I saw her struggle with a child with a life-threatening illness, not to mention her own,” McGushin said. “She wants to focus on the positive. Now, she’s inspired every time she gets an email from me about donations.”

McGushin set the goal amount at $50,000, but not just for the family’s medical expenses. As Shannon’s condition has developed, she had to leave her job. Over the summer, severe storms damaged their roof, which will need a full replacement, and led to flooding in their basement. The damages alone will cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

In just over a week since McGushin first posted the fundraiser, seven people have donated a total of $725.

“I was amazed,” McGushin said about the response. “Complete strangers were not just donating but writing kind notes. It’s really heartwarming. We just moved to Orland Park a few months ago, and every one has been so kind. Clearly it was the right move.”

Read about Tommy and Shannon from the GoFundMe page:

To meet him is to fall in love immediately! Despite the many medical challenges that face him every day, such as his feeding tube, significant developmental delays, risk of life-threatening seizures, hearing and vision loss, to name a few, he lights up every room he enters! The outlook for children with this disorder can be extremely grim.

However with the help of his nurse and unbelievable mother, his proud, loving and supportive father Tom and beautiful big sister Ella, Tommy has surpassed the doctors’ expectations for him. He is able to walk, has expressive verbal abilities and knows exactly what is going on around him. His sense of humor and loving nature make him irresistible to his nursing staff, therapists, family any anyone else lucky enough to be around him.

Read the rest of the family’s story and donate to the cause.


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